This is a sponsored article on behalf of HelloFresh
Recipe boxes have become hugely popular in recent years — but what are they like if you’re vegetarian? Do they offer enough meat-free choices and exciting, balanced dishes that you would actually want to cook?
First of all, not all companies offer vegetarian recipe boxes; many only have a few meat-free options within their existing schemes that feel like an afterthought. HelloFresh, on the other hand, has a dedicated Veggie Box for three meals to share between two or four people. This is the perfect number in a week, if you’re combining home-cooked meals with dining out, as many of us do; or simply fancy mixing up veggie and non-veggie.
Our trial veggie box was delivered by a friendly driver. It’s so exciting to receive a large, rectangular cardboard box packed with food, it’s like opening a Christmas present. Why not see for yourself, by signing up to a HelloFresh veggie box through Londonist, and saving yourself a hefty £25?
The first thing we noticed was the quality of the British ingredients: Isle of Wight tomatoes and echalion shallots are the kind of items that chefs use in posh restaurants, and they’re not easy to find in supermarkets. Cheeses — clearly marked as being suitable for vegetarians — were wrapped in an insulated sheet with ice gel packs to keep them cool and fresh. We were also delighted that HelloFresh had kept things topical by including a Brazilian recipe as a nod to the Olympics.
We liked the chatty, reassuring tone of the recipe cards, too. For instance, one instructs you to fry an onion and then says, Delia-style: “if it gets a bit brown, don’t worry, it will just add to the flavour.”
The first dish we tried sounds restaurant-style, and it was: spiced lentils with grilled halloumi and red onion ‘textures’. We cooked rice with cherry tomatoes and ras-el-hanout (Moroccan spice mix), combined it with lentils, spinach and crispy fried red onions, and topped the dish with grilled halloumi and pistachios. You’d expect something as tasty as this to be served in a good vegetarian restaurant.
We picked up a couple of tips, too: coating onion slices in seasoned flour before frying them gives them a lovely tempura-like texture and prevents them from burning; and gently frying spices in hot oil before adding other ingredients stops them from forming lumps and gives the finished dish a real depth of flavour.
Our next evening’s menu was rocket pesto orzotto with charred courgettes and tomato salad. ‘Orzotto’ is like risotto, but made from the tiny rice-like orzo pasta: a shape we will now be experimenting more with in future. Once again, we learnt new tricks: charring vegetables by dry-frying them in a pan, and making hand-chopped pesto by very finely slicing herbs are both simple yet impressive. We are never going back to shop-bought pesto again.
Additionally, the recipes encourage you to use the normally-discarded stalks of herbs and leafy vegetables, which gives the dishes more flavour and minimises wastage. It’s no wonder this kind of ‘root-to-stalk’ cooking is currently favoured by so many top chefs.
We saved the best for last. Our final dish was the much-anticipated Brazilian sweet potato veijoada bake with shallot salsa salad.
A ‘veijoada’ is a vegetarian take on feijoada: Brazil’s classic meat and black bean stew that’s said to be its national dish. (We have never heard of the veggie version being called ‘veijoada’ before – perhaps HelloFresh will start a new trend?).
We cooked black turtle beans with onion, garlic, chilli and spices, topped the thick sauce with roasted sweet potato cubes and a sprinkle of cheese, and served the baked dish alongside a tangy lettuce, shallot and tomato salsa.
All three items were delicious. They were quick and easy to cook, yet imaginative and a little different. A HelloFresh veggie box encourages you to try ingredients, flavours and cooking techniques you may not otherwise have thought of. Most importantly, as all the ingredients are pre-measured, there’s no wastage at the end.
The box is a great idea if you’re too busy to plan and shop for your dinner — it makes you feel as though somebody’s looking out for you: they’ve done all the work and are making sure you’re eating proper meals.
The dishes are perfectly balanced in terms of flavours, textures, colours and nutritional value — yet at no point did we feel we were eating ‘health food’. And they’re easy to adapt if you’re vegan: just leave out the cheese. There are plenty of beans and lentils in the flavour-packed recipes, so you won’t feel you’re missing out in terms of protein or taste.
HelloFresh’s veggie box is also worth a try if you’re stuck in a rut, making the same old dishes over and over again and are looking for new ideas and inspiration. You might even get a Jamie Oliver recipe, as he’s collaborated with the company in order to encourage more people to cook at home.
The dishes we tried have firmly become a part of our repertoire, and we will be cooking them again – perhaps even for a dinner party. A HelloFresh dinner party, now there’s an idea…